Peter Rhodes: Declaring war on time-wasters

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PETER RHODES on a bookshop clampdown, the Snowflake Generation and how the Bank of England got Brexit wrong.

STRANGE sight in the barber's where a little boy of about four or five was sobbing noisily as his hair was cut. It ended with a dramatic howl of anguish as the barber gently brushed the clippings from his neck. At this point, for having been such a brave little lad, the squawker was presented by his mother with an enormous bar of chocolate. Good luck at the dentist's, Mum.

THERE was a footnote to last week's item about my part in demolishing a Victorian villa in the 1960s. Every brick was lifted intact from the powdery old mortar and salvaged. But all the fireplaces, even the magnificent oak and polished-marble examples, were smashed up and scrapped. After all, in the Swinging Sixties, who wanted open fires? A few years later, everybody wanted them. In demolition, as in so many jobs, the most useful tool of all is a crystal ball.

THE Bank of England admits it misjudged the impact of a Brexit vote. Is anyone surprised? The entire Establishment, both in London and Brussels, eagerly took part in Project Fear, warning that leaving the EU would bring disaster. We now know, for example, that the BBC was aware that the Queen favoured leaving the EU, but failed to report the story. I can see all this ending in yet another public inquiry.

YOU know that feeling when you pop into the paper shop for the latest, freshest edition of your favourite magazine? You find it has been pawed, bent and finger-licked by hordes of lunchtime browsers who had absolutely no intention of buying anything. That is why my sympathies are entirely with the so-called "Basil Fawlty of Bookshops," Steve Bloom. He charges 50p admission to his shop in Hawes, Yorkshire, and stands accused of being rude to customers. Bloom, who describes himself as only "low to medium rude," says he wants to root out those who just want to "pass the time." As a serious book-shop user, I say good luck to him.

THEOLOGY students at the University of Glasgow are being warned that a lecture on Jesus and cinema contains "graphic scenes of the crucifixion." Let us hope these kids of the Snowflake Generation are also warned about other biblical passages. You could die laughing over that bit about the meek inheriting the Earth.

DICK Van Dyke, now 91, recently apologised for his terrible Cockney accent in Mary Poppins. A few days later, we were reminded of another accent malfunction with a repeat screening of Robin Hood (Film 4). I wonder whether Russell Crowe will ever admit that his much-criticised "Yorkshire" accent as Robin is about as authentic as Van Dyke Cockney. Crowe's Robin seems to veer between Halifax and Galway Bay. Ayeup, I'm Robin Hood, sithee and begorrah.

TRY this in your next pub quiz: What is the biggest life-form on Earth? The elephant, perhaps? The blue whale? Or what about those massive redwood trees in California? The answer, according to Peter Wohlleben in his wonderful and extraordinary best-seller The Hidden Life of Trees, is fungi. He cites an underground honey fungus in Oregon, reckoned to be 2,400 years old. It covers 2,000 acres and weighs 660 tons. Fry with a little butter . . .


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